Sony breaks new ground with camera sensors curved like the human eye

Sony breaks new ground with camera sensors curved like the human eye

Sony has developed a radical new kind of camera sensor that improves light sensitivity and allows for the use of simpler lenses. While all current camera technology relies on a flat sensor to capture light, Sony’s newest development is a CMOS sensor that is curved, mimicking the curvature of the human retina.

Compared to traditional flat sensors, the new curved CMOS sensor is 1.4 times more sensitive to light in its center and an impressive 2 times more sensitive at the edges, according to a report at the Symposium on VLSI Technology in Hawaii, delivered by Kazuichiro Itonaga, a device manager for Sony R&D Platform in Atsugi-shi, Japan.

The pure geometry of a curved sensor allows it to be used with a flatter lens, with a higher aperture, a key factor in allowing more light to pass to the sensor. The most obvious advantage of the curvature, however, is that light can now hit photodiodes more directly rather than obliquely. In addition, the curved form results in reductions to the noise from current flowing through a pixel even when its not receiving any external light (the so called “dark current”).

Sony uses a sophisticated process with a custom “bending machine” to flex the sensor and achieve a human retina-grade curvature. Itonaga specified that the machine first bends the sensor, but it’s also fortified with a ceramic coating after the bending for stability.

Sony's new curved CMOS sensor could improve camera light sensitivity up to 2 times

Sony's new curved CMOS sensor could improve camera light sensitivity up to 2 times

The most exciting part of Itonaga’s report, however, might be the size of the two sensors that Sony has developed: the first one is a full frame 43mm one clearly aimed at high-end stand-alone cameras, and the second one is a 11mm one. The sheer size would not tell you much, but a quick check reveals that this is in fact a 2/3” sensor, the same size as the camera sensor in the Nokia Lumia 1020. What this means is that we could well see this in a future smartphone camera, and why not in a future Sony Xperia Z series flagship?

Being a new sensor that requires a new system of lenses, it is a great fit for devices like smartphones with a fixed-focus (prime) lens, and no interchangeable lens support. Sony already showed one of a few if not the only compatible lens (a prime lens), at the presentation, and it also demonstrated an image shot with the new system.

Best of all, all of this innovation is not just in patent imagination land - Sony has already manufactured around 100 full-size sensors with their custom bending machine. 

When is this coming to market, though? While we have no fixed time frame, Itonaga concludes that this is not purely hypothetical: “We are ready.”

source: Spectrum

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49 Comments

1. karamelakimo

Posts: 109; Member since: May 26, 2014

Oh that's a real innovation :D

20. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

I just hope SONY won't sell this camera to Apple.

21. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

You mean like selling the whole technology or just letting them use it?

31. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

BOTH of them

33. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Well why would they sell the whole technology to them...?

22. xperian

Posts: 416; Member since: Apr 10, 2014

why? If it's good enough then why not?

49. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Well 1 thing for sure they'll not sell them they already patented it. I think all other company will just pay for royalty. Most OEM use Sony camera on their phones.

36. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

This Sony curve lens and huge Nokia 41mp sensor..... Just imagine.......

41. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

Uhm. It's a curved SENSOR. Not curved LENS.

46. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Oh OK...my mistake sorry

47. zhiae unregistered

Im not expecting this in a phone cuz it will be thik but i say cristal lenses is the way not curved sensor

48. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Innovation at it's finest!! Kudos Sony. I will expect this to your Z4-Z5

2. hipnotika

Posts: 353; Member since: Mar 06, 2013

maybe with this tech, they will give us quality photos.

3. CyberFalcon

Posts: 223; Member since: Apr 17, 2014

combine this sensor with a ground breaking OIS Technology and show them the u r the king of all smartphone cameras...

23. Bjray

Posts: 199; Member since: May 29, 2014

Better yet, use this plus MEMS focusing system.

26. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Sony always had best lenses...but their post processing is what sucks... I hope they improve on that aspect... And not to take credit away... This is real innovation....

4. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Imitating the nature is the best way of engineering! After all, nature has slowly tested the best possible solutions for billions of years!' Can't wait to see how this works :D

11. mrblah

Posts: 577; Member since: Jan 22, 2013

"Imitating is the best way of engineering!" -Samsung

16. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

lol They imitate something else though ;)

27. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Lol...you dunno how innovative is samsung.... They innovate on the basics of technology...like DRAM, and in data transfer.... But unfortunately they all come under FRAND...which is sad..because without that smartphone wouldn't work... Unlike the fancy slide to unlock...

5. KenAdams

Posts: 55; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

Sony and Nokia/Microsoft are the only companies who take their cameras seriously. Kudos to Sony!

35. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

U mean Nokia not Nokia/Microsoft.

6. hunted

Posts: 403; Member since: Sep 21, 2011

great work Sony. Love your products including my PS3 and Bravia TV

9. hipnotika

Posts: 353; Member since: Mar 06, 2013

ps4 ? :D that's amazing. now i am not playing game on pc or on mobile anymore :D

15. hunted

Posts: 403; Member since: Sep 21, 2011

yet to buy PS4

17. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Wii U ! ! !

40. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

You're kidding, right?

42. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Nope I'm dead serious.

28. refillable

Posts: 1071; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

PC all the way.

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I'm actually really excited to see how this pans out. Props to Sony.

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